5 Tips To Help Assess Cross-Country Career Move


Q. I’ve been offered a job in San Francisco, but that requires my husband and I to move from the Midwest where we’ve lived our entire lives. Family and friends are here, but this would be a huge career move—jumping several pay levels. But it’s scary to start over in a new city and we only know a couple of people in California. Plus, my husband will need to land a good job if we do this. Do you recommend geographic career moves? What should we be asking ourselves? -PB

A. If you check out my early career, you’ll already know my answer—Just Do It! I moved six times during the first 15 years of my career—mostly between the Midwest and East Coast. You are absolutely correct that physical moves often allow you to climb the career ladder faster. Making the move with your spouse makes the move easier since your best friend is along for the adventure.

Here are five things to consider before moving across the country:

  1. Do your own SWOT analysis—list the pros and cons for the move. If one side of the T-graph outweighs the other, you’ll have your answer. CareerIntelligence.com provides some key questions to consider when doing your personal SWOT analysis.
  2. Scout out job opportunities for your spouse before you arrive in San Francisco. The Top 10 job sites list thousands of opportunities in the Bay area.
  3. Realize that this move isn’t necessarily your last career move or relocation. Millennials will average 16 career changes during their lives.
  4. It’s harder to make a move when you have school-age children, so make geographic moves early in your career. But don’t rule them out at any point of a developing career.
  5. Social media can help build new friendships and maintain relationships with friends in the Midwest, and cheap airfares also help.

Look at the move as a long “vacation.” You’ll enjoy discovering new places and creating memories that will remain with you forever. I’ve now been on “vacation” in Chicago for the past 30 years.

3 thoughts on “5 Tips To Help Assess Cross-Country Career Move

  1. Ron, your advice is generally very much on target. Having moved to Chicago from New York nearly 22 years ago, I did my own SWOT analysis (Washington, DC was my other choice – and here I am). While your point about Millenials making 16 career changes may be valid, as an employer, I would look askance at someone who’s moved cities 16 times. One other important element I think you missed: is the city you’re thinking of moving to replete with other opportunities if this job doesn’t work out? Battle Creek, Michigan, Memphis, Tennessee and Bentonville, Arkansas have some fantastic companies headquartered there. But, if things don’t work out with them or one of their close-by suppliers, will you have to move again?

  2. A terrific topic for a post, Ron – one near and dear to my heart. I’d add a few other points:

    1) Determine how much you value new experiences: relocations are exciting opportunities to dive into new cultures, experiences and communities. For many this is decidedly positive.
    2) Relocating out of your home region dramatically expands your professional and personal network. You’ll gain access to an entirely new pool of relationships which ultimately enrich your life and career. Relocating can be a career ‘accelerant’ that pays off for decades.
    3) Find your people: Even in moving cross-country, leverage your own communities; University alumni associations, professional societies, national volunteer organizations you’ve contributed to. This can provide continuity you didn’t expect to find.
    4) You can always come home — but to do so, you’ll need to grab this new opportunity.

  3. Ron,

    Your advice is mostly spot on. When I had the choice of Chicago or Washington, DC when I moved from New York 21 years ago, I made my own SWOT list and here I am. While millenials may indeed make 16 career changes, as an employer, I would look askance at a candidate who relocated 16 times. Finally, one important thing you left out: think about your other employment options if you relocate to a city. Battle Creek, MI, Memphis, TN, and Bentonville, AR all have great companies headquartered there. But, if you move there to work for one or one of their suppliers and things don’t work out, will you be able to find another job without moving again?

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